Public Testimony: Mark Maginn, MSW, ACSW
April 26, 2011
Public Testimony on Assembly Bill 507
Good afternoon esteemed committee members. My name is Mark Maginn, and I’ve been in staggering pain for 45 years. I am a California leader for the American Pain Foundation and secretary of the Northern Cal. Pain Initiative. I want to tell you about my long battle with pain, a battle of disabling pain I share with over 2.9 million Californians. Most are under treated or completely untreated because of various barriers to legitimate medical therapy. Passage of Assembly Bill 507 will help patients and non-patients alike.
Hear’s my story.
Imagine, if you will, being in your late 20s and suddenly swamped by pain that invades first one joint, then another. Know the pain waxes and wanes and the doctors you consult can’t find a reason for your misery. A few of them even suggest that the pain might be in your head so they don’t help you with the pain.
Imagine 15 years of consulting several doctors you are finally referred to a physician who knows what is wrong: arthritis. You have an aggressive form of osteoarthritis that assaults your joints and makes you weep with pain. The doctor tells you, that in addition to having arthritis, you also have fibromyalgia with pain clawing up and down your spine, drilling in your shoulders, hips and knees. Later, you are punched with the grinding pain of colitis and osteoporosis.
Imagine being in extreme pain while trying to maintain a successful practice of psychotherapy while being in and out of hospitals, in grueling pain with Vicodin as your only ally. Imagine having to close your practice and walking away from all the patients who so depended on you.
Here they come, the surgeries. The worst is eight hours of spinal surgery where the surgeon cuts you open front and back to take out ruined discs and to put inside you bolts, plates and screws. Things look a bit brighter.
But it doesn’t last long. The pain flares up and returning to work is impossible. Imagine going on disability, the money helps but not much. It can never replace the income and self-respect you’ve lost; you can no longer provide for your family.
Imagine not being able to lift your small son into your arms. Not being able to attend his soccer or baseball games. You are unable to sit or stand, or sleep for more than an hour at time. Imagine the hopelessness, anger and the black dog of depression. Your wife and son watch in horror as you transform from a vital man into an invalid. Know their agony of not being able to soothe your pain.
Imagine having a spinal cord stimulator implanted in your back to block the vicious pain. It helps, but it’s a thin reed in a storm.
You finally find a doctor who can help. You try all kinds of treatment and medicines that don’t help. Then one day after much discussion surrounding safety issues, he prescribes an opioid medicine.
Imagine taking this medicine as prescribed. Feel the wonder and relief that swells in you as the pain slowly recedes like flood waters after a hurricane. No more hopelessness. No more anger, no more depression.
Is this too much to imagine? Not for me. This is the life I’ve lived for decades. But all that changed when I found a physician willing to treat me. I don’t have everything back, I never will. But I’m no longer on the sidelines of my own life. I can go to art fairs, to restaurants, the theater. I can go for walks with my dog. I can go to auto shows with my grown son. I can also, thankfully, be an advocate for millions of Americans like me.
A.B. 507 achieves the necessary balance between protecting the public while also protecting access for pain patient’s like me, to good medical care.